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OTs Walk With NAMI


In her role as Chair of the Mental Health Task Force of the Metropolitan District of the New York State Occupational Therapy Association (MNYD OF NYSOTA), Suzanne developed a collaborative relationship with professional staff and consumer members of NAMI-Metro New York, the national organization’s local chapter in New York City. 


In 2008, as NAMI-Metro was planning for their annual walk to raise funds, heighten public awareness and reduce stigma associated with mental illness, Suzanne and her colleagues realized that their clients needed to prepare physically for the NAMI Walk. They developed the idea for an exciting community service project that could be implemented by occupational therapy students.   


OTs Walk with NAMI protocols are for clients who attend day treatment programs or participate in local psychiatric clubhouses.  Walking programs are particularly important for many clients who have developed metabolic syndrome, which includes obesity and vulnerability to Type II diabetes, as a result of currently prescribed antipsychotic medications. 

Under Suzanne’s direction, Downstate OT student Eileen LaMourie produced the video, OTs Walk with NAMI, which has been used by NAMI at both local and national levels to promote their clients' participation in walking programs.  In addition, Suzanne led the task force in developing a step-by step walking program protocol that has been posted on the Downstate Medical Center occupational therapy web-site in order to establish in-patient and out-patient programs at a variety of local sites.  In addition, Suzanne and her students organized a website.  


Downstate Occupational Therapy Website for OTs Walk With NAMI - 

Suzanne then began to promote the program through conference presentations to occupational therapists throughout the US and internationally at the 9th Congress of Occupational Therapy for the European Countries: Occupation Diversity for the Future, Stockholm Sweden.  In 2013 Suzanne shared this idea, which was published in the Mental Health Special Interest Section Quarterly, a national AOTA publication, and in the AOTA national conference Mental Health SIS Annual Program (2013).









Suzanne developed a close collaboration with the Department of Psychiatry at Downstate Medical Center and Downstate East Flatbush NAMI chapter.  This collaboration has led to a long-standing partnership in which psychiatry resident physicians, occupational therapy students and the consumer members of the local Downstate East Flatbush NAMI chapter provide screening for metabolic syndrome to all participants at the Wellness Fair Downstate Metabolic Screening Booth following the annual NAMI-Metro walk. This Screening Booth was so well received that NAMI National has set up Wellness Booths in all their subsequent NAMI Walk events.

OTs Walk with NAMI: Promoting Community Health and Wellness

by Building Alliance and Advocacy

White, S., Anderson, A., & Roberts, A. (2013, June). Mental Health Special Interest Section Quarterly, 36(2) - See pages 49 to 52 :

Vision in Action Walk On
            Molly V. Strzelecki                    

When many people go running, it’s all they can do to concentrate on little things like putting one foot in front of the other. But when Eileen LaMourie, an occupational therapy graduate student at SUNY Downstate, goes running her concentration isn’t on the little things. It’s on the big picture.

“I pay attention to my inspirations, and I find that exercise and physical movement is very inspiring for me,” LaMourie says, “so it was an example of paying attention to a bright idea and then getting encouragement from people to run with it.”

The bright idea LaMourie had was to put together a video on the benefits of walking for people with chronic mental illness who are at risk for metabolic syndrome, and to encourage their participation in an upcoming walk sponsored by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)—the NAMIWalk. The video, titled OTs Walk with NAMI, would not only be the icing on the cake in an ongoing project for LaMourie’s community practice course, but would also become a major component of promoting the NAMIWalk in general, with help from clinical assistant professor at SUNY Downstate, Suzanne White, MA, OTR.



AOTA’s The Road to the Centennial Vision 




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